Louis Garrel: “When my mother got married in prison, I was not allowed to attend”

It is deep and light, tragicomic ascending. In the innocent, his fourth film, half thriller, half Italian farce, the actor and director humorously exorcises a family story. Meeting with an inspired man.

Good things come to those who wait for. Because he took the time to refine, but also to let his screenplay rest The Innocent (1),Louis Garrel unveils today a successful and original work which has already thrilled the public at the Cannes Film Festival. To promote this fourth film as a director, this Parisian with a casual look and devastating charm gave us an appointment in a brasserie in the south of Paris where he has his habits. Scooter helmet in hand, military jacket and linen shirt, he arrives late, but immediately knows how to make up for it with an unexpected good nature and this sincerely apologetic air.

In the innocent, A family chronicle against a backdrop of Italian thrillers, he forms a delightful quartet with Roschdy Zem, Noémie Merlant and Anouk Grinberg. By playing a son worried about his mother who has just married a prisoner, Louis Garrel lifts the veil on a part of his personal life since his mother, the actress and director Brigitte Sy, led theater workshops for several years in prison environment before marrying an inmate in prison. Strange childhood for the actor and director that the public too often associates with a Left Bank auteur cinema. In life, Louis Garrel is funny, simple and more offbeat than you might think.

Married since 2017 to Lætitia Casta, he is the father of two children (Oumy, adopted in 2009 with Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, and Azel, born in 2021). A quadra turned towards the family, who does not hesitate to cite his mother, his father, the filmmaker Philippe Garrel, and his grandfather, the actor Maurice Garrel, as inspiring figures. Brother of the actresses Esther and Léna, he finds the latter in Almond trees (2), the new film by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi in which he plays Patrice Chéreau.

In video, The Innocent, the trailer

My story

“The theater workshops that my mother led in prison were a way of questioning confinement: what to do with all these years during which prisoners are prevented from living while their lives go on? The margin interested him. This film is not autobiographical, but it is very personal. As I have a good command of the subject, I was completely uninhibited during the filming: I saw and rubbed shoulders with guys coming out of prison throughout my youth. When they had served their sentence, the imprisoned actors that my mother directed came to the house, and, from the height of my 8-9 years, I found that rather folkloric. I often asked them why they had been condemned, and they answered me absurd things. My character in the film looks like me, he’s a white clown, anxious, pessimistic, who always anticipates disaster scenarios: I worried a lot about my mother and, even if it’s exacerbated in the film, I liked him. he idea of ​​showing this son who behaves a bit like his mother’s father because she is his opposite in character, very sunny, with a childish joie de vivre. When my mother got married in prison, I was a minor so I was not allowed to attend, but I would have liked to. As a child, I still witnessed the coexistence of two very different worlds, and the idea of The Innocent was to evoke this fusion while imagining a mixed film that I wanted to be at the same time adventure, comedy and romantic.

Louis Garrel, the Cover Story

An Italian inspiration

“I wanted to tell a family story and a criminal case, but in a light way. During the preparation, I often took as an example Uncut Gems, by the Safdie brothers, the last film to have really impressed me. I told myself that these directors were very gifted because they had succeeded in creating an electric work that combines both tragedy and comedy. And that’s what I was aiming for The Innocent: make a film between passion and derision, like the old Italian cinema. Italians are like that by nature, and that is perhaps their greatest elegance. Marcello Mastroianni was the master in this area, he never took himself seriously: “The actor, when he arrives on a set, must have the feeling that he is 5 years old.” It frees any complexed actor. It is this detachment that I wanted to transcribe in my film. In order not to turn it into a contemplative chronicle, my screenwriters and I tried to inject what author Carlo Goldoni called lazzis – little gags – to bring burlesque to tragic situations.”

Outside Paris

“I set my story in Lyon to broaden the field and break my image as a Parisian – I discovered a game on the Internet called What kind of Parisian are you? illustrated with my portrait! Having spent some time there during the tour of False Confidences, of Marivaux, which I played with Isabelle Huppert, I was seduced by this very bourgeois city, very structured in its center, with an old historic quarter which can evoke Italy, in particular Turin. I believe that many Italian architects worked there, and since I thought a lot about Italian irony while preparing my film, I wanted to borrow something from the spirit of the Pigeon, by Mario Monicelli. And I liked being in Lyon, with its very contemporary and very cinematic peripheral industrial zones.”

I have a mother so powerful that she made me see femininity as a strength

Louis Garrel

My mother

“Among the female figures who have counted in my life, there is my mother, of course. I have such a powerful mother that she made me see femininity as a strength. She managed on her own in men’s worlds by going to put on shows in detention centers or prisons. She had to invent everything, work a lot, and I admired her for all that. She saw The Innocent when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and I think it made him laugh. She was sitting behind me, and I was glad to hear her laugh. I also think it moved her…”

Patrice Chereau

“Patrice Chéreau, whom I play in Almond trees, was a bit like the pope, and I found him very charming. This master of the 1980s revolutionized the art of directing in France and shone everywhere. I think he also brought a dark masculinity to the portrayal of homosexuality, especially in his film wounded man, in which the relationships are both brutal and sensual. I had the chance to meet him: he was the director of fever and intensity. I would have dreamed of working with him because under his direction his actors were plugged into 220 volts. I was happy to find Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (his ex-girlfriend, editor’s note) as director, especially since she did not act in her film, which made her even more free. We could also bicker over our different visions of a scene, something I like to do with directors: it creates a stimulating tension.


“The cult of virility or masculine power has fallen. Today, to be a man, there is no need to cultivate strength or authority. I have the impression that the relationship of domination has taken a hit on the face. A broader questioning of equality between men and women is taking place, because we have clearly seen that the sharing of tasks, equal pay, equal treatment were not self-evident… Without the sharpness and vivacity of feminist movements, the world could continue not to see, not to evolve. Will I raise my son the same way I raised my daughter? I think so. Above all, I believe in the importance of righteousness. For example, my daughter, Oumy, showed signs of empathy very early on, and I can clearly see that her superego is the right one for living in society. And if my children will not take away my catastrophic inclination, they allow me to remain anchored in life. »

(1) The Innocentby Louis Garrel, with Roschdy Zem, Noémie Merlant, Anouk Grinberg… Released on October 12.
(2) The Almond Treesby Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, with Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Micha Lescot, Sofiane Bennacer… Released on November 16.

Louis Garrel: “When my mother got married in prison, I was not allowed to attend”